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Various Types of Dishes
from Around the World
Enriched with History and Culture

To this day, finding quality food has been key to humankind's survival, and also what led to the development of civilizations and more exchanges.
You can understand the culture and history of a country by looking at what's put on the table,
as they're intertwined with each other like warps and wefts on a weaver's loom.
September is a month featuring Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving, which means it's that time of the year where we become more interested in what we eat. Another factor that makes us pay more attention to health, aside from Chuseok, is Covid-19, which is showing no sign of abating. Let us use this opportunity to sit at our tables and think of all the food that has been with humankind throughout the millennia.
Article: Editor’s Office/ Reference.『What’s on the dining table for the Sapiens』『World History, food made history』『The book of cheese』

Potatoes +Cheese + Salt, the ingredients that have been with humankind throughout history

Potatoes, one of the four major foods around the globe, are actually humankind's main source of energy, and over 300 million tons of them are produced per year in 125 different countries. Potatoes can be grown practically everywhere ━ even in the Alps mountains, the Sahara desert in Africa, and in Greenland, which is covered in ice and snow. If you have seen Martian, a film released in 2015, you might recall that the crop that the main character, the botanist, chose to plant in order to survive on Mars was potatoes. As such, potatoes are famous for being easy to grow in any conditions, and they are nutritious, and combine with many other ingredients because of their mild taste.

However, there was a time when potatoes were referred to as "the devil's food" Originally produced in the Americas, potatoes were first criticized and called "the devil's food" when first introduced to Europe and Spain in the late 16th century, because they were lumpy and not found anywhere in the Bible. However, they began to be acknowledged as excellent food in the 17th century thanks to King Frederick of Germany and the French agriculturist, Antoine.

Potatoes changed the landscape of food culture around the world and also had a huge impact on world history. Back in 1845, what's now called the Irish Potato Famine swept across Ireland, where most people ate potatoes on a daily basis, and lasted for several years, leaving a quarter of the population devastated with starvation and famine. The famine caused many people to flee to America. Patrick Kennedy, who later became the grandfather of John F. Kennedy, one of America's best-loved presidents of all time, was among them. Another type of ingredient that has been with humankind for a long time is cheese. Surprisingly, cheese is believed to have existed even in the Neolithic Period. Traces of animal milk were found in pieces of broken pottery. It is believed that cheese was invented accidentally, when some leftover milk naturally became firm over time when stored in a warm place.

As food that has existed for a long period of time, there are a number of cheese types, depending on how they are made. Cheese was once even used as combat rations in the ancient Roman Empire. When Roman soldiers took cheese along with them on their journeys of conquest, its popularity began to spread to other parts of the world. It was the monasteries in the Middle Ages that took cheese-making to the next level. Monks, having to be self-sufficient, made cheeses themselves and sold them. The types of cheese that we enjoy today were mostly invented by monks during those medieval times.

Salt is another ingredient that is as old as humanity itself. As one of the world's oldest seasonings, salt was used from around 6,000 BC. In both East and West, salt was a symbol of wealth and power. Starting from the Han Dynasty, China collected tax revenue by monopolizing the sales of salt; and Qin Shi Huang even unified ancient China with its army formed and trained based on the revenue earned from selling salt. In addition, ancient Rome used to give a handful of salt every day to its soldiers, before paying cash later on. Salary, which as we all know refers to the amount we get paid on a monthly basis, actually comes from Salarium, a Latin word associated with salt.

It is said that Europe's trade was heavily dependent on the power struggle between Geneva and Venice over salt, until the New World was discovered in the Middle Ages. This is why Mark Kurlansky, a humanities scholar said that "human history is actually a continuous fight for salt, the glittering white gold." Today, we are all concerned about the disadvantages of consuming too much salt, but the fact is, we still cannot live without it. The simple reason is because food simply does not taste good without it.

Dessert, meat, alcohol and other unique traditional Chuseok dishes from around the world

A country's traditional dishes tell us about its history and culture. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce some traditional cuisines from around the world. First, our neighboring country, China enjoys making moon cakes during their Mid-Autumn Festival, equivalent to our Chuseok holiday, and giving them to others as gifts. There is a traditional belief that a woman who is still single cannot get married if she does not finish eating a whole moon cake. Because of this belief, women of China make sure to eat everything, at least during their Mid-Autumn Festival.

The second week of October each year is Canadian Thanksgiving, equivalent to our Chuseok. On this day, Canadians enjoy meals featuring turkey with their beloved families, but it is said that they have to keep eating turkey sandwiches or salads for several days after the holiday as usually there's a lot of leftover turkey meat. The Filipinos choose November 1st by the solar calendar to visit their hometowns and their ancestors’ graves. When they pay such visits, Filipinos always bring flowers with them for decoration and enjoy cakes made from glutinous rice and glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves.

For Russians, their equivalent of Chuseok is the Saturday right before November 8 every year, which is known as St. Demetrius Saturday. Vodka is one of Russia's national symbols and as such, Russians drink vodka made from newly harvested grains with their friends and family, and feed these grains to birds. Vodka for Russians is like beer to the Germans. For the Erntedankfest, Germany's "Chuseok," festivals are held in parts of the country that are famous for their local specialties, such as beer or grapes. Munich's Oktoberfest, a classic example of a beer festival, is also an Ertedankfest event.

Each country's power food with meat, fish, and vegetables that boost your stamina

What our bodies really crave after surviving a hot sizzling summer is some food to boost the stamina. These "stamina" foods have the power to revitalize your energy and power. While Koreans tend to enjoy samgyetang, or ginseng chicken soup for this purpose, other countries have their own power foods. One example is France's famous soup, pot-au-feu, which literally means "pot on fire." The soup is made by first making the broth with different parts of beef such as shank, sirloin, and tail, together with vegetables and spices and cooking it over low heat for a long time. Pot-au-feu is similar to gomtang, a dish that many Koreans enjoy.

People in Spain enjoy gazpacho, a cold soup, made by mixing tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, and paprika with olive oil, vinegar, and ice water is enough to recharge your batteries. Peru's famous power food is ceviche, made by marinating seafood sliced into thin pieces in lemon, lemon peels, or lemon juice. Surprisingly, the United Kingdom's energy boosting dish is jellied eels. Jellied eels are a traditional English dish that originated in the 18th century, primarily in the East region of London. At that time, the Thames was so polluted that the only fish that could survive were eels. Jellied eels are made by boiling chopped eels and letting them cool to become like jelly and the famous soccer player, David Beckham, is a well-known fan. The Japanese also enjoy eel dishes, but theirs is called Unadon, which is a dish with eel served on top of steamed rice.

Günter Wilhelm Grass, a world renowned author, said that food played a pivotal role in deciding the fate of humankind. This is certainly true. Food did change world history, bring people closer, and allow them to maintain good health. As can be seen, food is an inseparable part of our lives. I hope this article with various ingredients and stories of food around the world will help you always remember how important and valuable food and its diverse ingredients are to us.

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